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“He’s the smartest dog I’ve ever seen” – Ropes (Film Review)

2 min read

This film also goes by the name of

When a car accident leaves her sister dead, Elena (Paula del Río), now a paraplegic, returns to her home to find her father (Miguel Ángel Jenner) has made some changes. He has kitted out the house with all sorts of things to make it accessible, assuming she has Athos at her side.

Athos is a keen albeit unruly German Shepherd, and he uses a series of through the house to open doors, windows, drawers, whatever Elena might need.

Shortly after they arrive, Athos is bitten by a bat (sound familiar?). A series of very unfortunate events leave Elena stranded with only a series of walls and doors between her and a very determined, rabid dog.

The comparisons to Lewis Teague's Cujo (1983) are obvious. But where that film used the ordeal to help Dee Wallace's character decide what she wanted out of her life and marriage, Ropes uses a similar ordeal to help Elena process guilt and trauma. She is haunted by visions of her sister, memories of the accident, their childhood and the complex relationships they all had after the death of their mother.

Montesinos makes his feature film debut and the direction is solid. There are a few really well set up jump scares and the tension builds effectively. We are there with Elena as she deals with her limited range of movement, and none of those movements being quick or quiet. Ropes makes effective use of its short run time, not outstaying its welcome or allowing itself to become overcomplicated or unbelievable.

That said, there are a couple of silly moments that distract. Additional unnecessary barriers, additional loss, and an angry CGI ferret lead you to understand why perhaps she doesn't feel a huge drive to survive her ordeal. In spite of the loneliness of her battle though, they do a nice job of bringing the family unit back together, giving her the strength for one last fight.

And fight she does, Paula del Río gives an excellent performance as both Elena and her sister Vera. Without the use of her body, she relies entirely on her face, and her fear, resentment, and determination are well realised.

While there is little we haven't seen before, the added restrictions associated with Elena's disabilities make this a tense gripping watch.

Dir: José Luis Montesinos

Scr: Yako Blesa, José Luis Montesinos

Cast: Paula del Río, Miguel Ángel Jenner, Jordi Aguilar

Prd: Arturo Méndiz, Carlos Pastor, María José Roche

DOP: Marc Zumbach

Music: Arnau Bataller

Country: Spain

Year: 2020

Run time: 87 minutes

Ropes will be available on iTunes, Amazon and Google from 19th November.

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